Novels that get inside the minds of animals have a long and storied tradition, but Murugal’s novel is more Animal Farm than Watership Down. Poonachi the goat arrives to subsistence fathers, and her black coloring is considered bad luck but tinged with rumors of goat-given prosperity. Poonachi offers both, with the story chronicling the couples rise and fall, all from the goat’s perspective. Murugal’s allegory looks like issues of race, class, gender, bureaucratic excess, and environmental devastation, at the same time bringing Poonachi to glorious life, experiencing a few highs and more than a few lows of life. There’s also an interesting backstory about the author itself and the challenges he’s faced in publishing his pointed work. An unusual read for sure, but not to be missed!— Daniel Goldin
As he did in the award-winning One Part Woman, in his newest novel, The Story of a Goat, Perumal Murugan explores a side of India that is rarely considered in the West: the rural lives of the country's farming community. He paints a bucolic yet sometimes menacing portrait, showing movingly how danger and deception can threaten the lives of the weakest through the story of a helpless young animal lost in a world it naively misunderstands.
As the novel opens, a farmer in Tamil Nadu is watching the sun set over his village one quiet evening when a mysterious stranger, a giant man who seems more than human, appears on the horizon. He offers the farmer a black goat kid who is the runt of the litter, surely too frail to survive. The farmer and his wife take care of the young she-goat, whom they name Poonachi, and soon the little goat is bounding with joy and growing at a rate they think miraculous for such a small animal. Intoxicating passages from the goat's perspective offer a bawdy and earthy view of what it means to be an animal and a refreshing portrayal of the natural world. But Poonachi's life is not destined to be a rural idyll - dangers can lurk around every corner, and may sometimes come from surprising places, including a government that is supposed to protect the weak and needy. Is this little goat too humble a creature to survive such a hostile world?
With allegorical resonance for contemporary society and examining hierarchies of caste and color, The Story of the Goat is a provocative but heartwarming fable from a world-class storyteller who is finally achieving recognition outside his home country.